Castaic District to start fall semester online; no timeline set for return to campus

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Castaic Union School District became the second district in the Santa Clarita Valley to announce the 2020 fall trimester/semester in a virtual format.

After the William S. Hart Union HIgh School District adopted a similar plan Wednesday night, the governing board for CUSD voted to pause their return to campuses in the fall out of concern over student safety due to COVID-19.

The announcement was made during a special meeting held by the board Thursday night, with the board voting unanimously in favor of the decision to start the school year online in response to recent state mandates and the county health orders.

“I just want to frame this by saying that throughout this whole pandemic, my decisions have been led through the lens of ensuring that safety for all our students and staff is the highest priority,” said CUSD Superintendent Steve Doyle, later adding: “I am not recommending tonight that we put a timeline on when this ends.”

The Hart District had imposed a five-week timeline from the start of school to reevaluate when they could return to school with their blended model. CUSD will be online learning until further notice, with the board planning to discuss a possible return at each meeting from here on out.

“I don’t know when it’s going to end, and I don’t want to create a false narrative for families and staff to think that this deadline is coming, and then we have to push it forward,” said Doyle. “So I don’t want to set up that expectation.”

A large issue the district was facing, Doyle said, was the lack of personal protective equipment being made available to the district, although those things, such as masks, hand sanitizer and other protective equipment, are required to reopen.

Additionally, district officials said they had to be mindful of the health of their kids and staff, who would be at an increased risk of exposure if they returned to campus.

At the June 25 board meeting, the board directed staff to move forward with planning for a blended learning model for the fall 2020 trimester/semester, or a model that would have groups of students alternating days between when they would be on campus and when they would be online.

Doyle said the district learned how to improve upon its virtual format from what it did during the emergency situation in spring, and would be improving upon its assessments, grading and taking regular attendance. CUSD teachers on Thursday began their voluntary, yet paid, training to learn the district’s new strategies for the online format.

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